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May 21, 2020

Mental Health – Building Awareness Can Make a Difference

The economic and health impact of the coronavirus is taking a toll at homes across the country where families are having a difficult time to put food on the table. Stress, depression, anxiety are on the rise due. On the occasion of Mental Health Awareness Month, we look at how building awareness can make a difference. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody.


Alexander Tescum, Former Employee, Tropic Air

“I was a cargo agent for twenty-seven years and I get wahn sudden letter yesterday.  Mein, it was devastating.  When ah tell yoh, yoh feel like yoh get stab eena yoh chest and ih mek yoh feel depressed mein.”


Selvyn Avila, Floor Supervisor, Ocean Ferry

“This COVID-19 has come and really had an impact on all of our lives, on the economy, our families.  But right now we are just starting from way down.”


Duane Moody, Reporting

The stress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is having an adverse effect on the mental health of persons. The economic inactivity, the inability to earn an income and not being able to provide for family – these can all trigger a mental health condition – be that anxiety or depression. But there is a wide range of mental health conditions that can manifest from mild conditions to extreme cases of schizophrenia.


Aimee Jex

Aimee Jex, President, Belize Mental Health Association

“We have everything from the severe, from what people consider mental health like schizophrenia to just some slight anxiety and people having trouble coping. When we look at the different age ranges, if you look at younger kids, there is bullying, there is domestic abuse as well that follows throughout the years as we can see. We definitely have post-traumatic stress disorder; there is the depression anxiety that we see mostly as mental health issues, because we don’t really talk about something like substance abuse as a mental health issue, but in reality it is. And then we look at homelessness; we don’t address that either as an issue.”


Mental health is a silent issue in Belize and is primarily unreported. Domestic violence is better documented because that data is provided through reports made to the police.  But depression and anxiety are, for the most part, dealt with internally and go unchecked. Recently, there has been an increase in persons accessing mental health services for several conditions.


Aimee Jex

“When it comes to the system, in the past few years, depression, anxiety, suicide and schizophrenia have been some of the top diagnosis. But again, that’s only through the public sector because in private practice, we don’t have a system to report. Like depression that maybe you have a familial history, but then it also comes from circumstances. So it balances out. Then something else like schizophrenia has a very heavy genetic component when it comes to it. So each diagnosis comes from a different place. Post traumatic stress disorder is very complex because it is triggered by an incident that was traumatic, but it has to do with the individual’s resilience, experience, how they cope, their personality. So it varies.”


It is said that everybody, at some point in their lives, battles with a mental health condition. Losing a loved one, like a mother or father, can have an effect on your mental health. The emotions trigger anxiety and depression and can lead to other conditions.


Carla Ayres-Musa

Carla Ayres-Musa

“What was really shocking is that I didn’t seek counselling or help because I thought I had a problem. I started talking to my counsellor; she is my neighbour and friend and I felt comfortable talking to her. And I started sessions with her and she was the one that pointed out that I was having this issue with losing my dad. I knew I was very sad about it, of course, but people who lose family members and close friends, you cry, you deal with it and you move on. But I didn’t realise that it was such a traumatic experience that it started to affect me physically because I realised that it was an emotional problem that I was having or a mental problem that I was having. I was just really tired all the time, I was feeling constantly overwhelmed. When I was sad, I would cry, but then I don’t want to cry in front of my kids and I don’t want them to see me sad all the time. You can’t cry while you are at work even though sometimes the sadness would hit me at work or on the way to work and I would find myself okay, come on, toughen up, wipe your tears, dry your eyes, put your big girl pants on and get to work.”


Shaky hands, headaches and stomach aches are some of the symptoms that show up. Sahar Vasquez is one of the founders of Mind Health Connect, which is a non-profit that provides information on where persons can access help across the country. She has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety. In her early twenties and having attempted suicide in the past, she speaks of her experience and fight through it all.


Sahar Vasquez

Sahar Vasquez, Mental Health Patient

“I have a lot of fears of abandonment, I am super insecure, I’m unstable with relationship—you can Google and find out more. And then coming along with that is depression and anxiety. So all of that tripled together can sometimes be extremely explosive. There are many mornings where even though yes, I am taking medication, I am getting treatment, just getting out of bed is the hardest thing to do. I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest telling me I can’t do it, I am weak, I am stupid, I’m not worth it. So it’s taken me a long time to learn how to fight that off and say, you know what that is fiction. The facts are you can do it, you’ve done it, you do it every day.”


While most activities are based around World Mental Health Day, recognized on October tenth, during the month of May, which is Mental Health Month for the United States, much is being done to break the stigma associated with mental health.


Aimee Jex

“Stigma is something that we create; it is a barrier that we have. But the more we talk about it, the more open we are, we get to decrease the stigma.”


Carla Ayres-Musa

“The way you seek help can be in so many different ways. But I think having that first conversation, sending that first message to someone and being like I feel like I am drowning, I feel like I don’t know how to get out of this.  Let it out; you have to let it out. And you might not always be able to let it out where you are, but you have to find time for it.”


Sahar Vasquez

“We want people to feel comfortable to say I am not feeling too good mentally and I need to go and see a doctor or go and tell a family member, I am feeling really sad and I can’t get out of bed or feeling anxious or I am just moody all the time. And then that family member or friend, without judgement says okay lets go and see someone, let’s get you the help that you need.”


#bekindtoyourmind and #thereisnohealthwithoutmentalhealth are two hash tags being used during this time to create awareness on mental health. Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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